The Influence of Pop Art and Minimalism on Graphic Design in the 21st Century

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The moderation of digital technology provides a huge opportunity for graphic designers, artists and businesses to showcase their work, products and services. Wider concepts and ideas are being bring into life far faster as technology evolved from manual to automatic. Nowadays, graphic design covers variety of fields such as motion graphics, calligraphy, typography, illustration and is also associated with computer games, video, fashion, architecture etc.

Firstly, I would like to expand the topic about pop art, its impact on graphic design and propaganda. In my second section, I will explore minimalist design and finally I will analyze how minimalism change the future of marketing and graphic design.

Pop art is an art movement that came out in the 1950s and developed in the 1960s in America and Britain, drawing its origin from sources in popular and commercial culture. Different cultures and countries contributed to the movement during the 1960s and 1970s. Pop art demonstrates postmodernism, and it first began in Britain as a rebel against the dominant approaches to culture and art and traditional views on what art should look like. It was mostly practiced by young artists who were not happy with what they have been thought about art and as an alternative they made use of sources such as Hollywood movies, advertising, product packaging, pop music, celebrities and comic books for their visuals. Pop artists also wanted to move twist the emphasis on personal feelings and personal symbolism that distinguished abstract expressionism.

Moreover, the difference between British and American pop art is that British artists used American culture as an inspiration for their imagery, adding sarcasm, irony and parody showcasing the power in manipulating people’s way of live and the fantasy of the perfect American lifestyle. On the other hand, American artists were inspired from what they have experiences and seen while living in America.

Therefore, this style is very appealing and stands out because of the bright, unique vibrant compositions that is being used. Humor was one of the main components of pop art. Artists use the subject matter to make a statement about current events, poke fun at fads, and challenge the status quo.

Adding to this, some of the main topics used in pop art are playing on the themes of consumption and materialism, where the artist expresses its critique of capitalism and materialism. Later on, companies started using the style for marketing and advertising its own products because of its catchy design, which makes it perfect for promoting their products and services.

Another topic to consider is the use fame and celebrity culture such as the representations of celebrities like Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley. Hollywood, movies, television, popular magazines like Vogue, and newspapers were flourishing using this method. Printmaking and silkscreen printing were two of the most prominent painting techniques used. In the same way, mixed media techniques were widely used, similar as collage making, which was one of the first to be practiced by pop artists. Another popular method is using Ben-Day dots, founded by and named after illustrator and printer Benjamin Henry Day. It is mostly used for comics and posters.

On the other hand, there is evidence of how politics and government used pop art as a propaganda. For example, Captain America Comics, that delivered an eerie political premonition, with our heroes truly stopping an Asian foe from crippling the US Pacific Fleet. Only a few months later, the same fleet was involved in the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The incident ushered in a period of government-funded propaganda for the superhero genre. The government used the Captain America's likeness to promote the war effort in a variety of ways. On the home front, propaganda posters and Captain America comic books were used to rally support for the troops, encourage the planting of victory gardens, and increase the sale of war bonds for military construction. To promote morale, the government also issued copies of the Captain America comics to soldiers serving overseas. We can see how propaganda may be found in practically anything, and it can be almost imperceptible at times. It can be found in the most beautiful works as well as your own favorites.

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In theory, we can argue that pop art is an example of propaganda with its strategy of imitating consumerist discourse, banality and semi-ironic approach to capitalism playing a big impact on governments and politics, as long as influencing the society to be more open minded and allow different points of view to be seen.

As previously discussed, pop art was one of the biggest movements in art history and is nowadays used in advertisement, branding design, logo design, product design, comics, etc. Clean and bold outlines, saturated and sharp color palettes neon, are familiar characteristics of pop art, making the artwork to stand out.

I am now keen to explore the history of minimalism and its impact on graphic design. Its roots can be traced to Picasso, Braque, Warhol and Kazimir Malevich. Minimalist style follows the concept of ‘less is more’ and the ability to apply it to lifestyle, art, fashion, architecture, literature, music and home decor. This type of movement is well known for the act of removing objects, leaving just the necessary and needed elements. Thus, geometric shapes, negative space, very few elements, bright colors, typography and clean lines dominate most minimalism style designs, focusing on the content rather than the design elements. In 1915, Kazimir Malevich, created his ‘Black Square’, which became one of the most celebrated pieces of Russian art in the 20th century. This was the first image in the European art that had minimized the number of dimensions to only three. ‘Black Square’ against white background became the symbol of non-representational art of the past century and an icon representing modernism. The artist used bold and provocative method, making the design look pure without the use of extraneous or otherwise distracting elements, provoking the feeling of curiosity when looking at the artwork. The father of American minimalism is perhaps Andy Warhol, who was one of the most successful commercial graphic designers of his time during 1950s. wining quite a few awards such as the Art Directors Club and the American Institute of Graphic Arts. Among his clients were The New York Times, Columbia Records, Vogue, NBC, and many others.

Bearing in mind, the following points, I would like to expand this topic and analyze how it affects graphic design nowadays.

Minimalism hasn't yet eclipsed a slew of other design trends and it's clearly making an impact. Several prestigious firms, including Apple, Microsoft, Chanel, Nike, HP, and Dior, built visual identities reflecting simplicity and sophistication, such as pure and elegant websites, minimalist Instagram feeds, and basic yet sophisticated print materials. Furthermore, minimalist design solutions are flexible and easily changeable when needed, providing a stable foundation for long-term brand identity, consistency and awareness. “I aspire for two things in design: simplicity and clarity”, stated Lindon Leader, an American graphic designer. Those two things give birth to great design. When it comes to your brand's visual identity, taking a minimalist approach helps you to express yourself in a powerful way. Such logos as the following are ideal for organizations in the tech and fashion industries.

This signifies that minimalist design was created with the sole purpose of being functional. The purpose was to strip the piece of any expressiveness, emotion, and extraneous embellishments. When no element can be deleted or added to make the outcome more complete and functional than it already is, it was thought that a design product has reached its pinnacle.

While minimalism is new and exciting and is a rapidly increasing trend, in the course of design history, it is nothing new. Minimal design style is only a rebirth of its print history in our digital life through the influences of pop art. However, minimalist style will probably evolve and eventually a new style will come to light that will leave minimalism in the past.

To sum up, graphic design is both a technical talent and an aesthetic expression, and like all skills and artistic expressions, evolves in response to changing periods, consumer trends, and socio-political climates.

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The Influence of Pop Art and Minimalism on Graphic Design in the 21st Century. (2022, September 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 13, 2024, from
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